6. So how do I build a Battlewagon?
"Is dat it?" squeaked Fidgit.
"Yeah, dat's da wun," breathed Oddballz.
He could hardly believe his luck. Tired of long hours spent building Battlewagons from scratch, only to have them blown apart as soon as they rolled into battle, Oddballz had been seeking a ready-made base for one as a way of getting a head start. He had been searching old battlefields for weeks, and up until now had nothing more to show for it than a trukkful of rusty junk. He would have happily settled for a humie tank, but this was something much, much better - a beakie Land Raider, damaged but still intact. It would be perfect.
Half-buried in a shell crater, it seemed to have been abandoned, but you could never tell with Land Raiders. He'd seen meks vapourised just as they were triumphantly attaching the towing cables to apparently derelict Land Raiders. Cautiously, Oddballz and his gaggle of Grots approached the stricken vehicle. He was already fantasizing about how he would rebuild it as a Battlewagon, with an armoured tower for the Boss and a turret for the zzap gun. He was almost close enough to touch it, when there was a massive explosion and the huge tank disintegrated before his eyes.
Shaking his head to clear the ringing in his ears, he stood up. His surviving Grots did likewise. From out of the smoke came a swarm of unfamiliar Grots, which began to scurry about collecting the remains of the Land Raider. Behind them came a strange looking mek, wearing some very complicated looking steam-powered armour, who began to direct the Grots' activities.
"Why in Gork's name did ya do dat?" asked Oddballz. "Dat was a perfectly gud Land Raider - I wuz goin' to build a Battlewagon out of it! Nice power klaw, by the way - needs more rivets though."
The other mek turned around. He was badly cross-eyed, but clearly very wealthy. Oddballz recognised him immediately as Krooza, an eccentric mek who was well known for his prolific output. He had become very rich unloading unfinished vehicles onto meks who were too lazy to build their own.
"Lootin' tanks is fer slackers," said Krooza matter-of-factly. "Real meks build from da ground up. 'ere, I'll show ya how."
When it comes to building a Battlewagon, a lot depends on the resources (i.e. cash, spare plastic kits, plastic card and bits) you have access to, how much modelling experience you have, and what style of model you prefer.
Remember that in Games Workshop-sanctioned events (such as Grand Tournaments) you may encounter resistance in using a scratchbuilt model that doesn't comprise of a proportion of Games Workshop parts. Having said this, it's apparent from numerous Grand Tournament armies that have found their way into the pages of White Dwarf, which have included Ork vehicles made from non-Games Workshop parts, that Games Workshop is not enforcing this issue particularly strictly. This will presumably change if and when an official Battlewagon kit appears.
The suggestions below mention a number of modelling techniques which are not explained in detail, but you can find hints and tips for these techniques elsewhere on this site.
The Forge World Battlewagon
The only Battlewagon model currently available is the Forge World version. This is the easiest option and the most expensive. The Forge World kit is impressive, well detailed, and certainly looks the part. One could question whether the design accurately represents the vehicle's profile in the rules in that the driver's cabin looks rather vulnerable considering it's meant to have heavy frontal armour and the troop compatment is almost entirely unprotected. It's also entirely made of resin and resin is not a medium for beginners. You will need to be able to cope with straightening warped pieces, cleaning up casting flaws, filling gaps, and assembling large resin components. If this isn't for you, then look at one of the other options.
In the hands of an experienced modeller, the Forgeworld kit builds up into a terrific model. It is relatively simple to customise the model using sheet styrene and other bits.
Agatheron's Forge World Battlewagon, in the process of being built. This model has been modified in several respects, including the roof over the driver's compartment and the side armour on the top of the hull. This photo, taken before the model was primed, illustrates the modifications made.
The finished Battlewagon, painted in Death Skulls blue and weathered to look like a vehicle that has seen some action.
Building your own -basic considerations
Most Ork players build their own Battlewagons. It's easier if you use an existing kit as a basis (known as 'kitbashing'), but many Ork players prefer to build the whole thing from scratch ('scratchbuilding'). Each of these options is discussed below. Regardless of which route you're going to take, it's worth thinking about the following points before you start any actual modelling:
- how does the vehicle move?
- where is the engine? Which wheels does it drive? Where does the exhaust go?
- does the front look sufficiently heavily armoured or does it look like a bolter shell would go right through it?
- where does the driver sit? Does he have a clear view forwards? If not, does he have some other means of seeing where he's going (such as periscopes or Grot lookouts)?
- is there enough room for the Ork troops to fit inside? How do they get out? If there are no doors or ramps, does it look as though they can they get over the sides? If the model represents a vehicle with an armoured top, where is the Access Point?
- where will the weapons go and do they have reasonably clear fields of fire? Would it make more sense to put the shorter-ranged weapons near the front?
It's a good idea to draw some sketches of your design and rough out where all the important features will go.
These top views of 2 different Battlewagons by Orchead the Red are an excellent illustration of different layouts. Notice that the guns on the first vehicle are in turrets, while in the second vehicle they are on pintle mounts. In both cases, they have clear fields of fire despite the complex shape of each vehicle (and the mountains of on-board stowage!). Achieving the 'mobile junkyard' look while still depicting a functional vehicle can be a difficult balancing act, but both these models succeed admirably.
Kitbashing a Games Workshop vehicle
Kitbashing has a number of advantages. A Games Workshop tank kit will be immediately recognisable to other players and the model will look as though it belongs in the WH40k world. Having the model based on an Imperial or Marine tank also fits in well with the fact that Orks tend to scavenge a lot of their equipment from the battlefield. It's also relatively easy because the basic hull and tracks are straightforward to assemble.
The best vehicle for kitbashing is the Land Raider. It is large (with wide tracks and plenty of room), and looks like the kind of thing Orks would want to use. The extent to convert it depends on you, but you should aim to modify it in such a way that it doesn't look like a looted Land Raider.
A few suggestions for carrying out this conversion:
- cut out the hull top. This will involve building some sort of interior, so be prepared to do that or add an open troop compartment to the top. While this alters the appearance of the vehicle, it also gives you somewhere to put some Ork models.
- cover the large side apertures. Do this with armour plates (i.e. plastic card), or mount some Ork weapons in them. They are very distinctive features, and altering them or covering them up helps make it look less like a Land Raider.
- replace the engine with a larger one and add some smokestack exhausts. Big, overly-complicated engines are very Orky. In addition they add a lot of interest to the model. Large exhausts are dramatic and invoke the idea of a noisy, smoke-belching engine.
- consider adding turrets and/or a tower. These will alter the original model's lines radically, making great focal points for the model.
- remove the Imperial eagle symbols from the tracks. A small detail, but it seems like something Orks would do.
- add plenty of dents, scratches, and other damage to the hull. This kind of wear and tear adds character to the model, particularly if some of the damage (patched-up shell holes, crudely repaired blast damage, etc) tells the story of how the Land Raider was captured by the Orks.
The only real downside to the Land Raider (apart from the high cost of the kit itself) is that it's quite a common conversion, and may not get as big a reaction as something more original.
This is Gash Nak Iron Toof's Battlewagon, converted from a Land Raider. He has reversed the model, so that the rear is now the front (shown in this photo). The conversion is relatively simple but effective. He has used spare kit parts to represent features like the gun positions (in this case the mountings for the Land Raider's lascannon). The vehicle is armed with a zzap gun and two twin-linked rokkits. These weapons are metal parts from Games Workshop models, and it is very clear what they are intended to be. It also features some Grot Riggers clambering over it. This is an excellent example of a practical and attractive gaming model.
Orchead the Red has used the Land Raider hull, but converted it extensively, so that it is almost unrecognisable. It has an additional set of tracks, and a large superstructure on top. It has a Forge World krusher on the front, with a twin-linked big shoota position above it, providing a wide field of fire. It is shown here churning dramatically through Orkhead's back garden.
MagosMechanicus has gone even further, joining a Chimera hull to the Land Raider, to create an articulated Battlewagon. There is a large force field projector in the Chimera hull, cleverly painted to look as though it is glowing.
The Land Raider already has a very attractive looking engine deck and exhaust system, but it looks more Orky if you soup this area up. Oddballz has added a box-like extension (complete with a ventilation grille) to the rear of this Land Raider conversion, as well as large exhaust stacks, and spare fuel barrels held on with chains.
The other options are the Leman Russ, Chimera and Rhino kits. None of them are big enough on their own, but some enterprising meks have managed to increase their size by widening the tracks, joining two kits together, or by extending the front and adding wheels or a roller. The above suggestions are also relevant to conversions based on these models. The main disadvantage to using these kits is that it will take a lot more work to make them into a convincing Battlewagon.
Oddballz Battlewagon, based on a Chimera. The model was extended upwards by adding a wooden fighting top made from the plastic Warhammer siege tower kit. It was also extended forward by fitting a crude krusher made from the wheels off the same siege tower. The krusher and turret mark this as another Kult of Speed Battlewagon. The oversized kannon and generally top-heavy appearance give it a resemblance to the old Epic scale Battlewagons.
Kitbashing a military model
This is in many ways the ideal solution for the more creative mek. There is a huge variety of military kits available now, and even the larger ones may be cheaper than Games Workshop vehicles. So what scale is best? WH40k miniatures are generally described as being 28mm (so-called 'heroic' scale). Strictly speaking, the closest scale to this for vehicles is 1:50 or 1:56 - although historical wargamers still argue about this point! 1:48 scale is also acceptable to many, the argument being that the miniatures tend to be overscale so it's okay to use a larger scale for vehicles. When it comes to WH40k, however, 1:35 scale seems to work better, because a moderately large 1:35 scale tank builds up into a sizable WH40k tank, and features such as hatches seem to be the right size for chunky 28mm miniatures (especially Orks).
Most modern military vehicles are far too sleek to be suitable as a basis for an Ork tank, although there are exceptions. For this reason, modern tank kits probably aren't the best choice. Most meks seem to prefer the later World War II Panzers, because of their angular, brutal lines and slab-sided construction. Their chunky wheels and wide tracks also look like something Orks could have built. Another reason for their popularity is because there has always been a connection between the Orks and World War II German soldiers (as is evident from the Orks' stikkbombs and coal-scuttle helmets).
Popular choices amongst the Panzers are:
- Tiger I (the late version with all-steel wheels is the most popular).
- Sturmtiger (a variant of the Tiger I with a large superstructure).
- Ferdinand/Elefant (another Tiger variant, based on an earlier hull design, which also features are large superstructure).
- Maus (a huge experimental tank that was built at the end of the war).
Most of these kits are available from more than one manufacturer, such as Tamiya, Dragon, Italeri, Trumpeter and Academy, although availability varies from time to time. Look on the internet if you cannot obtain what you want from your local hobby shop.
Another option is the larger German half-tracks, such as the SdKfz 251. Going further afield, there have been some recently released kits of the huge German railguns and other weird and wonderful weapons that seem very promising as potential Battlewagons, although some of these kits are quite expensive. There are also kits of World War II Allied vehicles that are worth considering, such as the Russian KV-1 and KV-II heavy tank and the Buffalo amphibian. Again, these have a simple looking suspension system and are large and blocky enough to look as though they were built by Orks (in the case of the KV-II, it's hard to believe that it wasn't!).
A well-known conversion by Nightserpent, based on a 1:35 scale Sturmtiger kit. Nightserpent kept the basic shape of the vehicle, but covered it in a layer of artfully applied pieces from a wide range of models, as well as sheet styrene and mesh. The result is a kind of junkyard sculpture, with a wonderful variety of textures and shapes to look at. The original model's huge rocket projector was converted into a lobba (although it could also be a kannon), and the engine deck became a troop compartment. The secondary armament consists of big shootas and a rokkit launcha. It is painted in a 'proppa' camouflage scheme, the kind that might appeal to a Blood Axe.
A very large Battlewagon built by Hymnofnot using a 1:35 scale LVPT-5A1 amphibious troop carrier. An unusual choice, but quite appropriate considering that the real vehicle carried 25 troops.
A few suggestions when tackling this kind of project - although most of these points apply to any conversion:
- while it's tempting to pile on the sheet styrene and bits as you go, it's a good idea to come up with a concept before you start hacking up your chosen kit. Flick through some military reference books, or visit some tank-related sites on the internet, and look at how real tanks are built. Notice the different ways in which armour plate is assembled, and the kinds of fittings that heavily armoured vehicles have. The best Battlewagon designs are the ones that look as though they might work.
- the vehicle you're using doesn't exist in the 'official' WH40k universe. It's something the Orks have built themselves. Try and make your conversion look like they've built it and not like something they've looted.
- look beyond the obvious kits for inspiration. For instance, large-scale ship models are a great source of turrets and guns. Buying a large ship kit just for the turrets is an expensive option though. Try combining a tank kit with a truck kit to create a semi-tracked Battlewagon.
- remember that most military kits are far more detailed than Games Workshop kits, and the detail tends to be very fine. Games Workshop kits, on the other hand, have 'chunky' detail, and things like hatches tend to be far thicker then they would be if they were strictly to scale. It's is a good idea to 'dumb down' the model by removing a lot of the fine detail, and replacing it with chunkier pieces. Additions like gun shields and armour plates should be thicker than the ones that you see on 1:35 scale kits, while fine rivet detail is best removed and replaced with heavy-duty rivets and boltheads. Using pieces from Games Workshop vehicles (especially the Ork ones) also helps the model to 'belong' in the WH40k universe.
- remember that 1:35 scale is larger than the (nominal) scale of Games Workshop vehicles. Orks are burly creatures with large hands, so any delicate handles and small hatches should be replaced with items that look as though Orks could operate them. Orks are also notoriously sloppy at cutting and welding, so armour plates and other components should have a rough-hewn appearance.
- try and make the important features of the vehicle (i.e. its weapons and upgrades) as obvious as possible. This reduces your opponents confusion as to what they represent. This means either using Games Workshop or Forge World pieces for the weapons, or modelling them yourself so that they bear a close resemblance to the weapons as depicted by Games Workshop (either as models or in their artwork).
- it's a wargaming model. It's better to avoid very elaborate or delicate features that won't survive the rigours of active service. Metal pieces should be securely attached and pinned, if possible. This insures they don't get knocked off too easily. Weapons are particularly prone to accidental removal and should be pinned in place.
- there are some simple tricks to Orkifying a vehicle kit without going as far as Nightserpent did and covering the whole model in bits. Irregularly-shaped panels of sheet styrene (representing crude armour plate) can break up the lines and add interest. Large Ork glyphs are quite easy to cut out of sheet styrene or you can cut them off metal models. The stylised Ork skull symbol is particularly popular. Cut new hatches and vision slits into the model to change its appearance. Large, spiked rams and dozer blades also look very Orky. Make the weapon positions particularly prominent with gunshields or sandbags to protect them, since these would be important features of the vehicle.
A close-up of an Ork vehicle converted from a 1:35 scale military vehicle. It's not a Battlewagon, but the approach is exactly the same. The model has been detailed with parts from various other 1:35 scale kits as well as Games Workshop vehicle parts (including the Warhammer Orc chariot, a great source of primitive-looking details). Note that nearly all the 1:35 scale parts have been modified to tie them in with WH40k scale. This model also makes extensive use of various types of styrene sheet ,including corrugated and non-slip pattern, and plastic strip.
Scratchbuilding a Battlewagon
This may seem a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. Done well, a scratchbuilt vehicle can attract a lot of admiration. As with any conversion, it's worth taking the time to plan it out a bit. Do some sketches and try out different configurations. Look at photos of real armoured vehicles to get an idea of how they go together. Many of the points in the sections dealing with conversions apply to scratchbuilt models as well. Since you won't have an existing vehicle as a starting point, it's even more important to have a clear idea of what you are trying to create. Otherwise, you'll end up with a shapeless jumble of plastic.
When constructing the basic shape, it should be very robust so it can support the weight of the layers of components that you will be adding to it and strong enough to survive the rigours of tabletop combat. You also want to suggest that the vehicle has been constructed from heavy armour plate. Thin styrene sheet will warp and buckle, and any visible edges will resemble thin steel rather than armour. You will need to use styrene sheet that is at least .040 inches (1mm) thick, and preferably .060 inches (1.5mm) - .080 inches (2mm) thick. While this may seem difficult to work with, it is in fact quite easy to cut. Draw out the desired shape. Then score along the lines (using a steel ruler to keep the edge straight). Then snap the sheet along the lines you've scored. It should break quite cleanly; any rough bits can be dealt with later when you come to filling and sanding the joints. It will also be a good idea to 'distress' the edges of the hull, so it looks as though it's been cut roughly and not carefully machined. This is usually done by attacking the edges with a knife, making irregular nicks and gouges. Conveniently, this effect also tends to hide any slight errors that you might have made when cutting the styrene sheet.
If you don't fancy scratch-building the tracks and suspension, consider sourcing them from plastic toys. Toy vehicles are a great source of oversized wheels and tracks. Just make sure that they are suitably Orky looking and not too futuristic or flashy.
Some work-in-progress photos of a model started by Kr00za and finished by Scarpia. Note how the basic model is built around a sturdy, relatively simple shape. The shape is, like most Games Workshop tanks, based on early historical tank designs, with simple tracks, vertical armour, and armoured sides that enclose the suspension. Hiding the suspension also makes construction much simpler since you don't have to actually build the suspension! The model is shown in its very early stages - the next step will be to add the track plates.
The same model in the final stages of construction. Scarpia carried on with the World War I theme, so that the model has many features that were seen on very early tanks. It has been decorated with Ork versions of Black Templar icons - a parody of that bane of all Ork players, the Land Raider Crusader.
The finished and painted model. Scarpia chose to keep the model relatively free of the usual Ork clutter, and painted it in a dark colour, emphasising its stark lines. The green Ork skull glyphs are a reference to the famous 'Green Kroosade' (in which a group of well-coordinated Ork players made an unexpected impact on Games Workshop's 2003 Eye of Terror campaign). Scarpia christened his Battlewagon the 'Kroozada', thus managing to reference simultaneously the Space Marine tank that inspired it, the mek that built the basic hull (Krooza), and the Green Kroosade itself.
Nosher's brutal looking Battlewagon is configured as a half-track. This is reminiscent of a World War Two German design and similar to the most recent Epic-scale Battlewagon. It is armed with a kannon (represented essentially by a plastic wheel) and 2 twin-linked rokkit launchas. It's built almost entirely of plasticard, with metal washers for track suspension, wheels taken from a toy for the front tyres, and glue blobs for rivets. Besides the sighting reticules on the weapons (and the Warhammer fantasy bases used as mounts for the rokkit launchas) the only other kit parts are the Rhino hatch on the cab, the front wheel hubs, and a door handle on a hatch on the back. The model's simple lines are very effective.
A largely scratchbuilt Battlewagon, built by Stuart Birks (which was discovered while searching for photos for this article). Stuart used the suspension components from a US Stuart light tank kit (which he said came in hundreds of individual pieces), but everything else apart from the weapons is scratchbuilt. The second photo shows the rear of the model, which features a visible engine. Details like this add enormous visual appeal to a model.
A very large Battlewagon, built by Ein, that looks like a cross between an old-fashioned steam tractor and a train. This is a relatively sophisticated design, as the shape is quite complex. It even has operating headlights. The first photo, taken before the model was primed, shows the many different materials used to build the model, including balsa wood. The second photo shows the model after it was painted.
Remember that every design changes once you start constructing it. Don't be afraid to take a different direction if it seems to work. If you get stuck, you can always post some photos in the Mek's Garage forum and ask for comments. There are many experienced meks who are only too happy to offer constructive suggestions.